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WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?

Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/novelist/poet/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock — hey Steve and Jason) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted into two piles — the “buy” pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of books that are too good to not own) and the “read” pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Thursdays (Diamond monopolistic practices willing), you’ll be able to get thoughts about all of that … something like this …

THE BUY PILE FOR OCTOBER 11TH, 2006

Fables #54 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

It’s a bitter homecoming for one Fable who bucked the system. Hansel … well, his story goes far beyond pushing a witch into an oven, and he’s reviled and openly hated by numerous members of the Fabletown community … which makes his appointment as the official ambassador of The Adversary’s empire particularly prickly. Hansel, for his part, makes no attempt to smooth things over, appearing imperious and brusque while berating everything from Prince Charming’s demeanor to the base architecture of New York City. Hansel’s character is cut from quite a haughty bit of cloth, and his appearance adds great tension and excitement to an already fascinating set of characters. Nicely done, all around.

Samurai Detective #2 (Image Comics)

Taking the cliches of Japanese cinema (as seen by those in the western world), this issue is a flawless mix of humor, action, tension and mystique. As the title character Sam Noir (seriously, that’s his name) slices his way through ascending levels of dangerous henchmen with stark, pure artwork and a sense of intimacy that can’t be beaten. As hard as it is to imagine, this issue is even better than the one that preceded it, a flawless and direct gestalt of two honored fictional traditions that does a great service to both. More is said with shadows and filled-in lines than anything else, a story told largely in silhouette. Fantastic entertainment here.

DMZ #12 (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Guide books rock. They just do. You have a property that interests you, and suddenly you have a full set of data about everything going on and who’s doing it. That’s fine. But to take that same sort of data and forge it into a documentary-styled narrative, told with all the snark and wit of the title’s bedraggled protagonist intact … well, that’s something special. Much like “Civil War Files” a few weeks ago (how innocent we all were, then), this is a great piece of characterization and a compelling look at a New York City you’d never want to visit.

WHAT’S THE PROGNOSIS?

Good stuff.

THIS WEEK’S READ PILE

Honorable Mentions:

The “Lost” similarities (especially season one) are pretty big in “X-Isle” #3, where big mysteries loom their head and weirdness becomes de rigeur, but it has yet to really stand up and say “here I am” as a story. Black Adam founds his own Shazam-powered family in “52” #23 while a whole island of mad scientists find fun in the sun … interesting, but eh. “Ultimate Power” #1 was (as Steve says) “all set-up” with Ultimate Reed looking for trouble and finding it in an issue that looked great and had one amazing line (“all Project Pegasus business is classified under the Gruenwald Doctrine”) but little to recommend it besides its beauty. “Green Arrow” #67 is a hard education for Ollie Queen, taking his “heroism” into delightful gray areas, and had some nice character moments for Connor and Mia, but just kind of skirted past certain elements and let the pitch go by. “Thunderbolts” #107 was another near miss, with the main Zemo plot being fascinating but the numerous super villain fights, led by an indecisive Otto Octavius, took too much away from the really relevant happenings. “Green Lantern Corps” #5 was a remarkable improvement, with good stuff going on but ultimately too much of it — focusing just on what happened with Guy, or Mogo, would have done the trick. But add the superluminal chase, and the stuff on Oa, eh. “Ultimate X-Men” #75 was okay with a very effective Ultimate Cable showing up, but just kind of threw it all at you without any nuance.

No, just … no …

Note: Misusing the “shear/sheer” thing and then getting it right in the next panel on the same page means you need to hire more editors, because in conception and execution, “Martian Manhunter” #3 was a mess, and needed a stronger hand guiding it. “Worldstorm” #1 was an even more limp guide book than the normally lame “Secret Files & Origins” from their pals at DC, “Tales of the Unexpected” might have wowed people thirty years ago, but today merely seems a poor entertainment-to-money ratio. “Gen 13” #1 would have been better if it wasn’t so predictable (and that Devil’s Due series “Defex” using lots of similar elements in character interaction just two years ago). “Civil War: Frontline” #7 had some interesting elements (including a Jack Ruby moment and Osborn unleashed) but just seemed too sad to put together any real stories (and the overlaid attempts at tying this to World War Two are just insulting). “JLA Classified” #28 would have been much better with more dynamic art, as the undercover content had some real appeal in that old “JL Elite” way,’ but missed it. “Firestorm” #30 was doing all right until it fell apart with some very convoluted storytelling on the last three or four pages.

SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?

Kind of rough, all told.

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Gotta call it a loss, as so much came close and then yanked entertainment from your grasp, this is one of those weeks you wish that you’d have stayed at home.

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